‘Trip to Gasa - March 29-31, 2013
I’ve been doing a poor job of keeping this blog updated (as evidenced from the date of the trip I’m only now getting around to write), so I’m sure a few details will escape my memory. Ah, well. On Friday, March 29 we all piled in the tour bus to head to Gasa. It’s a popular camping site, known especially for its healing hot springs. We intended to spend the weekend camping, hiking, and soaking in the baths. The weather was wet and rainy most of the time, but we didn’t mind terribly. It made navigating slippery, muddy paths a little difficult (even more difficult when you’re lugging packs and walking in the dark), and it meant that none of us had dry clothes by the time Sunday came around (most of us made the mistake of trying to dry our bathing suits and towels on the top of the tents, not realizing that it was going to downpour during the night and our things would get even more sodden). But we still had a fun time.
Friday was spent mostly traveling - we passed by Dochula (more on that in another post), a site with 108 chortens, or stupas. We drove past Punakha Dzong and took pictures. More on that later, too, since we got the chance to visit it over spring break.
Along the way, stopping for a bathroom break by the side of the road, Tsewang warned us against leeches. We were entering a wetter, almost sub-tropical climate, and it was a danger to watch out for. And he was right - almost immediately one of our group found a tiny leech, about the size of an inchworm, on his ankle.
We reached the campsite without too much fuss, though it was now dark outside and we had to walk the aforementioned muddy, slippery trail in pitch-black. We kept looking around at the dark on all sides and saying, “I’ll bet this is a really beautiful view when you can see it.” Luckily most of us had tiny flashlights on our phones, so we reached the campsite after about 30 minutes without too many fatalities.
The tents had already been set up for us, since Tsewang sent the crew ahead. And dinner was cooking. We put our things in the tents and had a candle-lit dinner in a mess tent. It might have been our appetites, or maybe the effect of eating outside among the elements, but most of us proclaimed it the ‘best meal’ we’d eaten so far in Bhutan. After dinner we put on our bathing suits and headed down to the hot springs to check them out.
There were three different enclosures, ranging in intensity of heat. Unknowingly we started with the coolest and easiest to acclimate to - it was about the temperature of warm bathwater, and felt really great after that stressful hike in the dark. The water comes in through a little wooden spout in the side, and drains out the opposite side through holes in the walls. The springs were all square, wooden buildings with a roof, but were still “open-air,” and it felt really nice to alternate sitting on the side and feeling the cold night air with lowering into the steamy water. The springs are supposed to heal your ailments, and it’s especially effective, we were told by other Bhutanese visitors, to take a drink directly from the spout - but of course, you need to drink an odd number of times, since odd numbers are more auspicious. (In fact, we were told to visit the springs an odd number of times, too. Three is a good number.)